EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN announced today the creation of the ESPN Madden NFL 20 Celebrity Tournament, featuring athletes, celebrities and ESPN talent. The tournament will kick off Sunday, April 19 with a bracket reveal show at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2, before all matches move to ESPN digital and social platforms, including ESPN Esports Twitch and YouTube, ESPN Twitter and the ESPN app. Several of the scheduled competitors are featured in the photo slideshow above.
There’s no arguing that there has been a big uptick in esports coverage while traditional live sports are on pause. However, ESPN’s commitment to esports is not new.
ESPN has a long history with esports across its platforms, including live events on both TV and digital in addition to its dedicated editorial verticals.
Front Row caught up with Director of Business Development and Innovation, Kevin Lopes and Vice President of Digital Programming, John Lasker, to learn more about esports at ESPN.
Our digital video and social teams recently expressed interest in unique content that sits at the intersection of sports, gaming, and culture; we all agreed this was the perfect moment. – Kevin Lopes
How did the idea for the ESPN Madden NFL 20 Celebrity Tournament come about?
KL: ESPN ran a successful athlete-and-celebrity-focused gaming event at the ESPYs last year and we have been looking for the right opportunity to feature a sports title. Our digital video and social teams recently expressed interest in unique content that sits at the intersection of sports, gaming, and culture; we all agreed this was the perfect moment.
What initiatives can we expect to see play out at ESPN around esports in the coming weeks?
KL: We hope there is more to come. We will continue to explore opportunities in esports to grow our brand and expand our audience. In addition to the Madden NFL 20 Celebrity tournament, we are also airing the EA FIFA StayAndPlay Cup, League of Legends Spring Split Playoffs, The Race All-Star Series, F1 Virtual Grand Prix, the Rocket League NA Spring Championship, and just closed out the NBA 2K Players Tournament.
What kinds of esports programming has ESPN aired prior to the last few weeks?
JL: ESPN has a long history of delivering live programming, coverage, and content to
esports fans dating all the way back to 2014. Last year alone, it televised
and streamed the Overwatch League playoffs and Grand Finals, hosted the first-ever Collegiate Esports Championship at Comicpalooza in Houston and also put on two owned-and-operated events featuring EA’s Apex Legends in conjunction with The ESPYS and X Games Minneapolis 2019.
How has ESPN’s esports strategy evolved during the last few weeks?
JL: We remain committed to serving this passionate and growing audience and consistent with our history of covering esports, we have and will continue to cover the category in the highest quality live and surround coverage our fans have come to expect from ESPN.